Our lives would look very different without these items invented by women.
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Maybelline New York Beauty & Beyond

Coffee filters. Dishwashers. Hair brushes. Windshield wipers. Computer programming language. Try to imagine how your day would go without these things.

Unless you live in a cabin in the woods and couldn't care less about modern conveniences (in which case, you're probably not reading this), the answer is "not well."

Think about it: Getting ready for work probably took people 10 times as long without paper filters to make coffee, hair brushes to tame bed-head, or windshield wipers for safe driving in storms. Then, of course, once you finally got to there, you'd be doing all your research, correspondence, and clerical work without the help of a computer.


Anyone else hyperventilating yet?

Even Oscar Wilde didn't find it amusing. Photo via Metropolitan Museum of Art/Wikimedia Commons.

The reason life no longer looks like that time-consuming nightmare is because a number of brilliant women invented things to help make our day-to-day a whole lot easier.

Here's a look at five of them.

1. Melitta Bentz streamlined the coffee-making process.

Bentz and her marvelous invention. Photo by Otto Sarony/Wikimedia Commons.

You know how those nifty little paper sleeves keep coffee grinds out of your morning (afternoon, evening) cup o' Joe? Well that's all thanks to Melitta Bentz, a German woman who figured out that using paper instead of cloth to filter coffee is much more efficient.

Before she patented her invention in 1908, people used to put coffee grinds in a small cloth bag, which then went into boiling water. This often resulted in some gritty residue at the bottom of a cup of coffee. But by using a piece of paper from her son's notebook and a pot with a few holes punched in it, Benz prevented that effect. She also essentially invented the pour over method, which coffee lovers uphold to this day.

2. Mary Anderson made car travel much safer.

Anderson and a sketch of her "window cleaning device." Photos via Wikimedia Commons and the U.S. Patent Office.

It seems fitting that the windshield wiper was invented by a woman who was annoyed at being stuck in New York City traffic.

Anderson was visiting the bustling city in 1902 and decided to take a streetcar because it was snowing. However, the driver kept having to get out of the car to wipe off the windshield, which delayed her travel further. And that's when she thought, "If only there were some device that could wipe away precipitation and allow drivers to remain in their cars."

When she got home, she drew a sketch of the first windshield wiper. A year later, she had a patent for what she called a "window cleaning device."

3. Mabel Williams helped girls pump up their eyelashes.

Photo via Maybelline.

For a long time, women weren't able to do much to make their eyelashes appear longer and fuller, though many had used a variety of ingredients in an attempt to try.

So in 1915, a woman named Mabel Williams mixed coal dust, vaseline and oils for sheen to create one of the first mascaras.  Her brother saw the potential and developed a mail-order brush called Lash-Brow-Ine and launched the company — the Maybell Laboratories in Chicago.

The product caught on through print advertising, and two years later, Williams used it to launch the beauty brand — Maybelline — which might sound familiar.

4. Grace Hopper is part of the reason computers do what we want them to do (for now, anyway).

Hopper working with UNIVAC I — the first commercial electronic computer. Photo via The Smithsonian/Wikimedia Commons.

The reason computers work for us is because we feed them instructions that are then translated into code. Hopper led the team that's responsible for the first program that did that.

After she joined the U.S. Navy during World War II, she was assigned to work on the Mark I computer at Harvard. Her team created the first computer language compiler, which was the precursor for the Common Business Oriented Language, or COBOL, that would end up becoming a computer language used worldwide.

Of course today, computers are teaching us a thing or two, but none of their complexity would be possible without this first, pivotal step.

5. Lyda Newman designed a much more useful hairbrush.

Lyda Newman's revolutionary brush design. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Hairbrushes today help us keep our locks from looking like knotty messes, and that's largely thanks to Newman's ingenious design. Her brush had evenly-spaced rows of bristles with open slots to guide things like dust and dandruff away from the hair. The hairdresser got a patent for it in 1898, but her work for women didn't stop there.

She also worked with the African-American branch of the Woman Suffrage Party to help women get the vote in New York City. Who says activism and style can't go together?

Women inventors are responsible for so many things on which we've come to rely, yet their work often goes unsung.

It's about time we give them the spotlight they deserve.

To learn more about these and other women inventors, check out this video:

via KTLA 5 / YouTube

A little after 7:30 on Tuesday night, Los Angeles County Sheriffs received multiple reports about a herd of cows running through the streets of Pico Rivera, a city 11 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

This Twitter video does a perfect job of encapsulating the surprise residents felt when they saw 40 cows running through their quiet suburban neighborhood.

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via KTLA 5 / YouTube

A little after 7:30 on Tuesday night, Los Angeles County Sheriffs received multiple reports about a herd of cows running through the streets of Pico Rivera, a city 11 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

This Twitter video does a perfect job of encapsulating the surprise residents felt when they saw 40 cows running through their quiet suburban neighborhood.

Keep Reading Show less
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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."